China becomes the largest buyer of industrial robots

China has overtaken Japan as the largest buyer of industrial robots, according to a trade report. One in five robots sold globally in 2013 was purchased in China, as surging labor costs forced it to speed up productivity via automation, according to the International Federation of Robotics, an industry group based in Germany. About 36,560 industrial robots were sold in China last year, up 60 percent from 2012, said the IFR report. Japan, which had long taken first place in purchases of industrial robots, accounted for 26,015 units in 2013, followed by 23,679 in the United States.

Robot sales in China soared 36 percent on average from 2008 to 2013, according to the IFR. The increasing robots demand mainly comes from multinational enterprises, especially the auto industry. As the largest auto market, industrial robots of the auto manufacturing accounts for 60% of the total robots share in China.

Although China is growing quickly in the robots market, compared with highly automated countries such as Japan, South Korea and Germany, with robot densities in the manufacturing industry ranging from 270 to 400 industrial robots per 10,000 employees, the density in China is relatively low at about 23 in 2012.